Internal rules are one or several documents that help NPMs to organise and clarify their internal functioning and processes, including, for example: procedures, working methods, decision making, and ethical considerations.
What are Internal rules?
Why are Internal rules important for NPMs?
Internal rules and procedures contribute to the good governance of institutions, in other words, the system by which an organisation makes and implements decisions in pursuit of its objectives.
As such, internal rules are important for NPMs because they clarify roles and responsibilities; and procedures for decision-making, in line with the organisational structure of the institution. This is particularly important for NPMs composed of several members, or for NPMs which are part of ombuds institutions and national human rights commissions. In this sense, they are the link between the NPM’s internal organisation and effective execution of its mandate.
For both multiple body NPMs and NPMs that are part of ombuds institutions and national human rights commissions internal rules and procedures can greatly facilitate information sharing and internal communication with other departments from the same institution. This is particularly the case around issues like complaints or legal and policy work that might involve a number of different departments.
They may also help to define an NPM’s ethics, values, internal culture and ways of working. This is particularly the case if they include references to working methods or core principles (for example, a human rights-based approach, and non-discrimination). This can be useful for new staff and for teambuilding, as well as providing a degree of protection and sustainability for the institution, including when there is a change in institutional leadership.
Because they are likely to cover questions about representation and external communication, they may also be useful in clarifying who speaks for the NPM, including in relation to the media.
How can an NPM’s Internal rules be developed and adopted?
Internal rules are usually developed by the NPM itself. For NPMs that are part of broader institutions, the internal rules may be a subsection of the broader institutional rules or a separate document. In the latter case, they should nevertheless be developed in consultation with the relevant departments of the broader institution, and be coherent with any wider institutional rules.
NPMs will usually need to begin developing their internal rules and procedures in the first year of operation, although they may not wish to rush into a formally adopted set of rules before they have had an opportunity to put them into practice and make changes based on what works.
Among different NPMs, there are a range of practices relating to the level of formality of their internal rules. In some cases, the law stipulates that the NPM has to establish its internal rules. In other countries, it is also required that internal rules are adopted in some formal way by the institution. For other NPMs, they are less formal documents that evolve over time in response to different needs and changing practices.
There are also a variety of practices relating to publication. In some places, the internal rules are a public document, published in the official gazette or the NPM website. In others they are kept for internal use only.
What could be included in NPM internal rules?
NPMs may wish to include a wide range of different issues in their internal rules and procedures. This might include some or all of the following elements:
Roles and responsibility
- Who makes decisions on different issues (including visits, reports, law and policy, strategic planning, interacting with the media, budget) and who is accountable for the NPM’s actions.
- Internal communication, coordination and interaction between different teams, units or departments (particularly for NPMs that are part of broader institutions). This may particularly be the case in relation to complaints.
- Administrative and financial issues, in particular with regards to the use of NPM funds.
- Human resources, including staff responsibilities, and decision-making about hiring, promotions and dismissals.
- Logistical issues.
- Processes regarding visits, including who is involved (and how) in the preparation, conduct, and debriefing of visits, as well as who drafts the visit report and recommendations, who approves them, and who communicates with the authorities about any findings.
- Communication, with the media and civil society.
- How the NPM engages in dialogue with the authorities and the processes by which they exchange information, request follow-up and enter into dialogue.
- How the NPM interacts with other actors at national, regional or international level, including the SPT and the UN human rights system.
Ethics and principles
- Ethical issues, particularly in relation to the use of confidential information, the do no harm principle, obligations around reporting wrongdoing, and workplace harassment.
- Values and principles that underpin the NPM’s way of working and approach.
- The NPMs’ approach towards prevention of reprisals
Issues for specific NPM types
For NPMs that are part of ombuds institutions or national human rights commissions it is likely that a number of specific questions will need to be addressed in their internal rules, including:
- Who speaks on behalf of the NPM? For example, the ombudsperson or chair of the human rights commission, or the NPM chairperson?
- How are decisions made?
- What is the role of commissioners, the ombudsman or deputies in relation to visits and follow-up?
- Who approves NPM reports and recommendations?
- How should complaints (and information about them) relating to detention be handled?
- How does the NPM department share information and cooperate with other departments, including that on protection and investigation, and vice versa?
- Does the NPM publish a separate annual report or a chapter within the annual report of the institution as a whole?
For multiple body NPMs, it will additionally be important to consider issues such as:
- Coordination regarding ethics and working methods.
- The role of each institution and that of the coordinating body, if any
- Coordination, such as: when and how meetings will be held, coherence of NPM work, participation in visits, publication of joint reports, and joint advocacy on law and policy reforms.